Joseph Louis-Gay Lussac

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is-gay lussac
Mike Wagura

Chemistry Honors

7TH Period

April 25, 2011

JOSEPH LOUIS GAY-LUSSAC

Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac was born in December 6, 1778 in Saint Leonard de Norblat in France. He was the eldest son of Antoine Gay. Antoine Gay was a judge at Point-de-Norblac and had acquired the name Lussac a small family property in a nearby town. Gay Lussac received his early education in his hometown of Saint- Leonard. Since an early age, Gay-Lussac had a curious interest in science. He was very talented probably because one of his grandfathers had been an author, and a few of his relative were notable figures in France.

In 1794, he was sent to Paris by his father in preparations for his further education in college. In 1797, after passing an admission examination, Gay Lussac was admitted into the University of Ecole Polytechnique. However, three years later, he was sent to Ecole des Ponts et Chaussees where he became a student and a research assistant to C. L Berthollet. Gay-Lussac was also appointed as the assistant to Antoine Francois Fourcroy in 1802.  A while later, after Berthollet astonished by Lussac’s intelligence and science potential, Berthollet declared himself as the “father in science” to Gay-Lussac. In 1809, Gay-Lussac married Geneviève-Marie-Joseph Rojot who worked in a tailor’s shop. They had five children and the eldest son, Jules, became a laboratory assistant to Justus Liebig, a close friend to Gay-Lussac. In 1807, Gay Lussac became a member of the Socite d’ Arcueil. He became a Professor of chemistry at Ecole Polytechnique in 1809. However, Gay-Lussac kept alternating from being a chemistry professor, to being a professor of physics. As a highlight of his successful career, Gay-Lussac was elected into the Haute Vienne chamber of deputies in France in 1839. Gay-Lussac was involved in numerous scientific researches and studies. His studies included capillary action, hygrometry, properties of gases, and standard measurement of alcohol content in beverages. He worked with Pierre Simon Laplace, a close French chemist, while researching the laws of capillarity. They both made publications, and also collaborated in many researches afterwards. Although Gay-Lussac is not accredited with the study of hygrometry nor the device itself, his involvement with the atmosphere prompted him to publish his ideas and observations concerning hygrometry. A formal request to Gay-Lussac to study the effects of increasing altitude on the Earth’s magnetic field took him to the skies. In 1804, together with Jean Baptiste Biot, Gay-Lussac ascended in a hydrogen balloon in order to collect data samples of air. He also had the opportunity to investigate the composition of air at various altitudes. After testing the air samples at his laboratory, he concluded that altitude was not a determining factor in the strengthening or the weakening of Earth’s magnetic field. Gay-Lussac also found out that the composition of the different gases in air to be constant at different altitudes despite the fact that he had a headache about twenty thousand feet off the ground. Gay-Lussac’s next major study was the measuring alcohol(ethanol) concentration in alcoholic beverages. He developed an alcohol by volume standard measurement by mainly using units of volume. This standard measure showed how much alcohol was contained in an alcohol beverage by dividing the amount of alcohol (ethanol) by the volume of the alcohol beverage. The result (ABV) was finally expressed as a percentage. The percent-expression proved useful globally since all kinds of capacity units (such as litres and gallons) could be used without necessary conversion. The alchol-by-volume standard measurement has been used since his times till now. Two years after his magnetic field experiment in a hydrogen balloon, Gay-Lussac discovered the relationship between the pressure and temperature of a gas while researching on the thermal expansion of gases. He...
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